Nutrition is an important aspect of overall health, but few people truly understand its direct relationship to eye health. When it comes to primary care optometry, nutrition and lifestyle modifications need to be incorporated into the conversation for better eye health outcomes. Thomas A. Wong, OD, shared his thoughts about the importance of nutritional conversations in the future of optometry in an article for Optometry Times.
The science is there to prove that nutrition is integral in a healthy life, but what role it plays in eyecare is less defined. The first step is understanding the impact of poor nutrition on eye health and its clinical implications. The second step is educating patients so they understand the connection between the food they eat and their vision. Dr. Wong stated, “Primary-care ODs use innovative technologies to educate patients about their own health and use food and nutritional advice to improve their outcomes.” Not only can patient outcomes be improved, but establishing yourself as an expert in eye health and nutrition can better differentiate your practice.
Educating and Eating for Eye Health
“Food as medicine” is a growing healthcare movement looking at nutrition-focused science and the medicinal role of dietary recommendations in managing health concerns. Eye health concerns are also impacted by nutrition, as proven in the AREDS 2 clinical trial, Zeaxanthin and Visual Function Study, Diabetes and Visual Function Supplement Study, Ocular Nutrition Impact on Tear Film study, and many others. A few of the common nutrients looked at for eye health are zeaxanthin, lutein, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Dietary zeaxanthin is critical to the protection of central vision. This carotenoid is concentrated in the center of the macula, protecting light-sensitive cells called cones. Along with crisp, clear central vision, cones are responsible for color vision and vision in bright light situations, helping to view vivid scenes in all their glory. Zeaxanthin can be found in orange bell peppers, paprika peppers, corn, and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli.
Lutein is another critical carotenoid for vision. Found on the peripherals of the macula, it protects the retinal cells called rods. Rods are responsible for vision in low light, helping to navigate at night or in dark movie theaters. Lutein can be found in leafy greens like swiss chard and turnip greens.
It’s no secret that Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to health, supporting heart, brain, and joint function. They are also important for eye health, specifically the surface of the eyes. Symptoms like dryness, irritation, itching, redness, grittiness, and even blurred vision can all be linked to the poor health of the eye’s surface. Omega-3s, along with other ingredients shown to help reduce inflammation on the eye’s surface, can help support surface health and keep your eyes feeling fresh and comfortable. These critical fatty acids can be found in foods like fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Why It’s Difficult to Eat for the Eyes
In the macula, zeaxanthin and lutein are found in a 2 to 1 ratio, meaning that the eye chooses zeaxanthin to be the highest concentrated protectant for its precious cells. Though zeaxanthin is more heavily focused, it’s more difficult to get in the diet, with lutein being 5 times more common in food than zeaxanthin. In fact, patients would need to eat 20 ears of corn a day to get the amount of zeaxanthin they need to support healthy vision.
Nutritional supplementation is a great solution for supporting eye health. While this is not a replacement to a healthy diet full of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and fish, patients can add an eye health vitamin to help fulfill their nutritional eye health needs. EyePromise provides clinically-proven eye health vitamins aimed at supporting nearly every patient type, including macular health, occasional dry eye, patients with eye health concerns related to diabetes, screen time, and visual performance.
As the #1 choice of eye care professionals and professional athletes, these eye health supplements are crafted with the highest quality ingredients and NSF certified, guaranteeing that what’s on the label is what’s in the product. Additionally, EyePromise vitamins contain the highest amounts of dietary zeaxanthin available, matching the eye’s natural ratio of zeaxanthin to lutein for maximum protection.While dietary modification is important, expecting patients to eat the amount of nutrients their eyes need to perform their best is a tall order. That’s why it’s important to recommend an eye health vitamin regimen to build into their daily schedule. With all EyePromise products created for 1 daily dose, they’re easy for patients to incorporate into their routines.
Find out how much patients would need to eat daily to match the nutrients found in EyePromise EZ Tears in this video.